By The Associated Press
OCEAN SPRINGS — Arson or carelessness started a fire that burned about 850 acres in Jackson County, according to the Mississippi Forestry Commission.
The fire was contained and forestry agents were checking hot spots Sunday, Jackson County Emergency Management Agency director Donald Langham.
Although a nursing home and hundreds of homes were evacuated Saturday, Langham said no buildings burned.
The nursing home was waiting until Monday, when more staffers would be available, to return patients from nearby nursing homes, but area residents were allowed back home before dark Saturday, he said.
The cause is listed as “incendiary” — caused by people rather than nature — and is being investigated, Forestry Commmission dispatch supervisor Cathy Bond said Sunday.
The fire started about 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
“I was out in the yard shooting basketball with my son. All the sudden we hear a boom, and look and notice smoke start coming this way,” Jerry Ladnier said. “People were frantic. Some were spraying down their yards, and next thing you know it’s going to be a mandatory evacuation or go on your own.”
Black smoke enveloped a red sun over Jackson County, as residents sat by watching flames progress over the area.
Crews from three area fire departments, the U.S. Forestry Commission and the Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge battled the fire.
Forestry Commission official Randy Wilson says smoke from smoldering vegetation could impair visibility along Interstate 10 and U.S. 90 for a few days.